The following tribute is a compilation of memories and inspirations from some of the AerSale colleagues who knew CJ best and shared their thoughts. We welcome your additional messages below and hope this celebration of CJ’s life brings comfort to all.
Some people make an extraordinary impact on those whose paths they cross. CJ Calabrese was one of these remarkable individuals. Perpetually positive and unfalteringly upbeat, CJ touched many lives. He inspired others with his kindness, sunny attitude, and indiscriminate friendliness. CJ was relentless in his career and life ambitions, with a visible eagerness to live. Even while facing health challenges, he embraced a new and fresh perspective on life, living it to the fullest, and appreciating every minute.
Jacqueline Fernandez recalls hiring CJ years ago.
“His energy was off the charts and he sustained that same excitement about what he was doing, whether in his personal or work life, all the time I have known him,” she says.
Working at AerSale, first impressions of CJ portrayed him as very polite and considerate. He impressed others with drive and zest for life, exhibited by working intense days in the office. Upper management quickly identified him as an up-and-comer, destined for success at whatever he chose.
“CJ was a 100-percent, all-in kind of guy,” says Bob Nichols. “The kind of person you wanted on YOUR team.”
About two months into his job, CJ told me, along with some of the other ‘older’ folks, that we would work for him someday,” says Jacqueline. “I told him it would be my pleasure because that meant he was doing great things.”
He was energetic and thrived on learning and familiarizing himself with the industry. In just a few years, he had transformed from a young graduate into a true business professional that showed an undeniable passion for his career.
Unequivocally positive, CJ saw the good in all situations. He lived his love of God through helping others whether on a mission trip, lending an ear to a friend, or just helping someone see a positive outcome. He was strong of mind and heart, and lived his faith in his words and actions. He never wavered or succumbed to sorrow or negativity.
CJ was consistently conscientious of following an exceptional fitness regime, while maintaining a manicured professional image at the office. And let’s not forget that blazer! CJ was impeccably well-dressed. Always. One contributed favorite memory paints the scene of a pool-side gathering of people from numerous companies attending ACPC. Mistaken in thinking CJ worked at the hotel, one guy approached CJ and asked him to get a six-pack of beer. That’s what happens when you dress like you’re at a yacht club.
“CJ had the kind of build and looks that most men could only hope for,” adds Bob. “And while this collection of attributes is the kind of thing that often makes other men proud and arrogant, CJ was always humble and disarming. While in every respect CJ was an exceptional man, it seems to me that he always saw himself as just a regular guy.”
Additional shared memories conjure up laughs, camaraderie, and admiration. The Halloween when CJ dressed up as his boss will forever remain hilarious. The image of CJ drinking his Monster, playing his EDM music, and smiling reinforce the fact that nothing could knock him down. The long after-hours talks about life and his dreams--while waiting for traffic to dwindle--are treasured.
“I recall an offsite obstacle course race called Battle Frog some years back, where CJ put in a blistering performance that put most of us other AerSale teammates to shame,” says Bob. “While CJ wanted to win, he seemed more interested in helping everyone else over the finish line (not an easy task for some of us less-athletic types). I most remember how proud I was to have CJ on my team. He was and remains an inspiration to me.”
CJ showed us that anything is possible when you work hard and put your heart into it. He taught us how to enjoy every minute of our lives, be kind and more thoughtful, go out of our way to help others, and not expect anything in return. He made us appreciate the simple things we all have, all the more. His very short time with us underscores just how little we know about what our time might be.
He will be remembered as a fighter, always doing something to better himself, and never giving up. He carried himself in a dignified manner, always faithful, caring, sincere, and honest. Meticulous, willing, and appreciative also come to mind. Bob sums it up succinctly.
“‘Genuine’ might be a good place to start. CJ never pretended to be anything else but CJ. In so many ways, he has set the bar high in exemplifying someone we could all aspire to more like.”
“Being able to call CJ my friend was an honor,” says Jacqueline. “If there are more CJs out there, then the world will surely be a better place for it.”
CJ is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Cid Calabrese, parents, Susan and Lawrence P. Calabrese, sister, Caitlin Calabrese, paternal grandmother, Rose Calabrese, and many cousins, aunts, uncles, and dearest friends.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, June 29, at St. Mark Catholic Church, 5601 S. Flamingo Road, Southwest Ranches, Florida, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., with a Mass to immediately follow at 10:00 a.m. A private burial for family only will take place at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery. Everyone is invited to join the Celebration of Life at the parish hall of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 4497 W. 1st Avenue, Hialeah, Florida, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. To help the organizers prepare accordingly, please RSVP to each event. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to Donate in Honor of CJ.